This is the first part of a series on the Gifts of Brokenness—What I learned from the death of my son
The leaves on the tree are yellow and orange, falling from the sky, soft as snow, leaving a carpet of autumn brilliance on the ground. My dog and I walk through them at the park, hearing the familiar crunch under our feet. All this beauty will soon be gone. One last show before the hard frozen earth forces the skeletal trees back to cold and stillness and sleep.
But I will not miss this gift of Fall, this brief time when it’s easy to rush through the scheduled swiftness of our days, to find ourselves overwhelmed with parties, Thanksgiving preparations and Christmas planning. My calendar is filled to the brim, like a glass of water too full to drink. One careless move and it all spills over. The rain begins slowly, pulling the leaves down to the ground with the drops, covering the paths in a blanket of yellow. So lovely for that instant.
I breathe it in, the smell of fall, the intense colors.
I will not miss this beauty.
This gift of today.
If the glass spills, I will not have missed this.
I am learning something through all this pain, as I search through books, and scratch down words and listen to great God-fearing people talk about their suffering. But what I’m learning seems so illogical, so contrary to what we normally believe about suffering: that out of pain and suffering we gain something important, something beautiful, some treasure in the darkness. Though it makes no sense, there is beauty in our broken hearts. There are songs from the grave.
And yet, the questions still plague me in weak moments, when I am tired, when my child nags, when the days falls apart at the seams.
How can brokenness be a gift? How can something good come from this?
It seems so unnatural. Yet the pain itself–the death, the disease, the crisis, the horrible event–is not the gift. That is what causes us pain, but it is not the treasure. Instead, it is the struggle, the healing and understanding that come as we wrestle with our pain that brings us something valuable. We gain some compassion or perspective that would not come any other way but through the dark night of the soul.
Even Isaiah knew about those hidden treasures when he said:
I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isaiah 45:3)
The ESV version calls these hidden treasures “treasures in the darkness.” These treasures, my own process of healing, weigh heavy on me, but I begin to understand: how short time is, the priceless gift of every soul and that suffering in community helps heal a broken world. In our journey, we learn to thank God not just for the beauty, but also—here’s the hard one—for suffering.
We offer gratitude despite our circumstances.
We see that there may be some blessing past our pain. The Bible says even in the midst of Job’s worst nightmare: losing his children, everything he had, even his own health, he still gave thanks saying,
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Like Job, James MacDonald says we need to “Embrace what He has allowed, no matter how painful it is.” Only through acceptance can we move past the bitterness of suffering and on to the gifts that are found in the darkness. Sometimes our hearts are too hard, too broken, too devastated to understand these gifts. Sometimes our fists are still pounding the walls. But it will come, if we turn those fists into open hands. If we open our hearts to what might be.
I wander through the park, in the midst of colored leaves and dying foliage. We twist and turn, my dog and I, past crabapple trees and red maples, past berry bushes and golden perennials dying in the half-light. I don’t know where I’m going. There are no straight paths or clear ends to this journey. How much does my own life feel this way? So twisted and turned? It’s not the straight path I planned and yet, if I walk, head down, focused only on the path, I miss what is all around me: The gift of this journey, the treasure in the dark.